Maya Energy

Consistent with HEC’s commitment to environmental justice, we have been opposing the Maya Energy project in Gary since learning about it in late 2016 from concerned Gary residents. This harmful project in Gary’s Glen Park neighborhood will process up to 2400 tons per day of waste, including 1600 tons of municipal garbage, most of which would come from Illinois. According to plan, the trash would be dumped out, sorted into piles up to 23 feet tall, and shipped back out for incineration as “refuse-derived fuel,” recycling, or disposal in a landfill in Grayslake, Illinois.

If approved, Maya Energy will be built on formerly protected floodplain land owned by the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, immediately across from the Steel City Academy, a rapidly-growing K-12 school with more than 280 students. HEC is proud to stand with the Steel City Academy and a broad coalition of community members and organizations in opposing the Maya Energy project.

Steel City Academy student at the Little Calumet levee. Credit: Steel City Academy.

Key facts about the Maya Energy project

  • Maya Energy will be a large waste-processing facility located at 2727 W. 35th Avenue, which is currently a soybean field across a narrow two-lane street from the Steel City Academy. This property is owned by the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, which has entered into a Letter of Intent to lease the property to Maya Energy for 50 years.

  • It will handle up to 1600 tons per day of municipal solid waste and up to 800 tons per day of construction and demolition waste (that’s at least 200 garbage trucks bringing waste in)

  • That 2400 tons of waste will be stacked up to 23 feet high, sorted, and shipped back out. (that’s at least another 100 semi trucks coming in to take waste out)

  • The facility will run from 5 AM to 11 PM, Monday through Saturday

  • About 40% of the municipal solid waste will be converted to “refuse-derived fuel,” to be burned in the kilns at Carmeuse Lime on the Gary lakefront, further poisoning the region’s air

  • The stacked waste will generate 40,000 gallons of potentially toxic liquid waste (“leachate”) per day, which will be discharged into the city sewer

All of the above information comes directly from Maya Energy’s permit application. Unfortunately, because Maya Energy has spent the past year submitting repeated piecemeal amendments, members of the public can’t even read the whole permit in one place. However, you can read their most recent submission here, and you can read their original permit application (which contains extensive documentation missing from the current version) here.

View along 35th toward Steel City Academy. Credit: HEC staff

HEC’s concerns about this project:

This project is a threat to the public health and quality of life in southern Gary.  It will harm the health of students, teachers and local residents, and will also damage the natural environment and local infrastructure. Harms to health include dust, diesel exhaust, and noxious vapors, all of which can further aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. In addition, Gary’s frequent sewer overflows mean that much of the leachate may be discharged into local waterways. Gary, which is known nationwide as a symbol for environmental injustice, already has 164 hazardous waste sites, 8 state authorized solid waste facilities and 40 abandoned waste sites. Those numbers are high enough.

HEC and our community partners have a number of additional concerns, which will be detailed in a formal public comment to IDEM. These include the following:

1) Maya does not have a valid lease or deed to this property, which is required by law for a solid waste processing permit

2) The project lacks proper zoning approval

3) The project is located on floodplain land that should be protected

4) The project is located across the street from a school, and is inappropriate in this location

5) The project lacks adequate testing of waste; for example, the proposed plan contains no means of identifying incoming wood that has been painted with lead or treated with arsenic

6) The project does not serve a need

7) The project will create a nuisance and threaten public health

View across the Little Calumet marshland near Steel City Academy and the proposed Maya Energy site. Credit: Steel City Academy.

The Maya Energy Project has Advanced Based on Key Misinformation

Maya Energy obtained a zoning variance from the City of Gary in the spring of 2016.  However, this approval was based on representations that the project would only involve sorting paper for recycling, and would handle only a few truckloads per day. The project now proposed is worlds away from what was originally presented to the Gary Board of Zoning Appeals.

Through its various permit and zoning applications, Maya Energy has given at least three completely different addresses (sometimes miles away) for its planned location. Nonetheless, despite the many irregularities and inconsistencies in its applications — and despite HEC repeatedly calling attention to those irregularities — Maya Energy has received most of the permits it needs in order to operate.

View along narrow 35th Avenue near the proposed Maya Energy location. Credit: Steel City Academy.

What HEC is Doing

HEC provides legal and technical assistance to communities across Indiana facing environmental threats.  HEC staff attorney Samuel Henderson, a Gary resident who joined the HEC team in August 2016, has worked steadily with local communities in Gary and East Chicago on multiple environmental threats, including Maya Energy.

HEC has submitted multiple comments in opposition to the project, including the air pollution permit (comments filed in January and April 2017) and the improper use of $51 million in tax-exempt “economic development bonds” to fund the project (comments filed in April and May 2017).

HEC has been consistently involved in opposing this project for well over a year, and will remain involved until this harmful project is defeated.

You can read HEC’s public comment to IDEM here: Joint comment on Solid Waste Permit 45-53.

HEC staff attorney Sam Henderson describes the Maya Energy proposal at a community meeting at Steel City Academy. Credit: Thomas Frank

How to Get Involved

Here’s how you can help stop the harmful Maya Energy project:

  1. IDEM is hosting a public meeting on Maya Energy on Thursday, May 10, from 6 to 7 PM, at the USW Local 1014 McBride Hall, 1301 Texas St., Gary, IN.  Please come out to make sure the voice of the people is heard!
  2. Gary needs to immediately amend its ordinances to prevent a facility like Maya Energy from operating in such a sensitive location. If you live in Gary, please contact your city council members and urge them to enact an ordinance banning solid waste operations near schools.
  3. The Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission must not approve this lease, which is a violation of the public trust under which it holds this land. Contact the Commission here, or attend their upcoming meeting on May 9 in Munster.
Students holding signs that read: My Generation Matters More than Your Dump, My Future Matters More than Your Dump

Steel City students lead the way at a recent Gary City Council meeting.


(Last updated 5/4/2018)